Some thoughts on Google+

Like every early adopters, I've been playing with Google+

Like every other early adopter, I’ve been checking out Google+ and I’ve been surprised by what’s been missing from the commentary. So here are some thoughts, in no particularly organized order, based on my initial experience.

Google vs. Twitter

With 750 million users, most of Facebook’s time is supposedly spent on pictures and games. In its initial iteration, Google+ does not seem to support those core components of the platform, which may make one wonder if Facebook really is the target. What it does support today, however, is a better version of Twitter, complete with specific status updates. So, in its current iteration, I would venture that the target for Google+ is Twitter.

Which may lead one to wonder why Google is so aggressively going after Twitter. I believe it is doing so because Twitter search may be starting to steal traffic, and potentially revenue from Google search. In a somewhat unsurprising move, Google decided to not renew its revenue agreement to get access to the Twitter stream. I would venture that this is an attempt to kneecap Twitter and ensure it doesn’t become a serious threat when it comes to advertising revenue.

While the company is generally considered as one that tries to do no evil, Google is also keenly aware that its success relies largely on two near monopolies: search and online advertising. With Twitter emerging as the first serious competitor in the space in a long time, rumored to be racking in $60-70 million a year in advertising revenue that could easily be targeted based on tweets, Google is seeing red and acting accordingly against the threat.

Google vs. Facebook

Meanwhile, there is the fight against Facebook. Facebook presents a different problem for Google in that it has taken an increasing share of online users time and put it in their walled garden, away from the web that Google mines for revenue. This trend is largely built on the back of games and photos so Google+ will try to tackle those things next.

While it is clear that, within the code, are hooks that will allow for games to be hosted on the platform, it is unclear whether that strategy can succeed. The main challenge they will encounter is that, as the owners of slide, Google is not just a provider of platform for online gaming but also a major player in the space. As such, some of the smaller players may be worried that the platform could sway in ways that me be less than beneficial to them. Zynga, because it needs to get rid of its current dependency on Facebook will probably hedge by putting some of their games on the platform but it is unclear as to whether other companies might join in.

On the picture end of things, Google is leveraging its Picasa offering, however, it is clear that it could do more by integrating it better in the + platform.  The mobile integration is a nice piece and may actually do collateral damage to a number of mobile photo hosting applications link instagram, for example.

But the picture offering is not enough. A proper merging of YouTube in the offering might give it some extra power by leveraging their strong presence in the video space to offer something that doesn’t yet seem to exist on Facebook.

Google vs. Apple

Apple integrated the new version of iOS with Twitter, basically matching one feature that has existed on many Android phone for a few years. They have yet to integrate with Facebook but I would not be totally surprised if they were to do so in future versions of their device. Android already supports both Facebook and Twitter integration and is supporting Google+ through an added application.

In order for this integration to work, Google will have to integrate Google+ at a much deeper level than it does today. However, with a social network and a mobile offering, Google is in the interesting position of being able to become the social network for mobile devices. On the other hand, the approach they have taken to date leaves much to be desired. By installing two different apps on the device, the experience feels tacked on rather than integrated. The Android team has to do some serious work to really rethink things over and tightly integrate Google+ into the OS, making the experience seamless.

The acquisition game

With a rumored 4-5 million new users in the past couple of weeks, Google is off to a good start with Google+ but still only reaching one percent of the Facebook world. Building on the back of Gmail may be a solid strategic move at this time, as Gmail can get Google to roughly 200 million users. What what about the more than tripling of that number required to get to parity with Facebook? For that, Google is going to have to do a lot of hard work and it’s unclear how they will go about acquiring more accounts going forward.

It may just be that Google will try to require every user of every service they provide to create a Google profile account moving forward. Today, Android users are required to create a gmail (or google apps) account to sync up their device. This represents one acquisition channel that none of the other players in the social media space have and could be one big area for growth.

Another area for potential growth is in the enterprise space: looking at the Google hangout feature, it seems to me that circles could become a useful way to organize a company and get quick online meetings. In fact, it may be more useful as a working tool than as a merely social one.

Still, at this time, it is hard to see a case where Google could topple Facebook. But the history of social networks is riddled with the bodies of players that were once at the top and eventually superseded by new entrants (think Friendster and MySpace) so it is not totally impossible that Facebook could find itself in hot competitive waters.

What about reputation rating systems?

Last but not least is the question around reputation rating systems like Klout or Peerindex. Those companies have built their model on the back of Twitter and Facebook and must urgently adapt to include Google+. With many early adopters spending more time on Gooogle’s property, the reputation rating game has a new entry point that will need to be urgently included in their calculations if they want to continue being relevant. When I first mentioned this, many people replied that those services are just not good enough as is and it seems that they have yet another challenge to deal with if they want to establish themselves as relevant in the future.

About the Author

Tristan Louis

Writing and working on the internet since 1993, I've launched six companies, of which two went public and three were sold. This is my personal site and all opinions here are mine.

  • Vittyo

    What? Try checking your facts – all of them.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      Any particular one that disturb you? Amusing comment but not sure of what you mean.

      • http://twitter.com/Puzl_me Puzl_me

        Nothing much but found one, Facebook has officially announced they now had 750 million users.

        • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

          Good catch. Will correct it. Thanks for the catch: it’s an embarassingo oversight on my part.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRWHYHYKBBFYJE6ODAL4W5B3JQ RickW

        Under “The Acquisition Game”: “…to get to parity with Google.”  Did you mean “…to get to parity with Facebook.”  ??

        • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

          Corrected in the copy on TNL.net

  • Anonymous

    Granted, G+ doesn’t have games, but you must be kidding about the lack of photos on G+, right?  I’ve already posted SEVERAL pictures to G+ and seen several pictures.  I’ve uploaded via computer, laptop and android phone….and btw, the quality of photos are much nicer than any other social network!!!

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      What I meant is that they should integrate it fully instead of relying on Picasa (a different product altogether). Unless you want to consider that every Google product is now part of Google+, in which case I still beg to differ.

      • Anonymous

        You do know that Picasa is a part of G+, right? In fact, most google products will be a part of +. Blogger, youtube, docs etc. It’s going to be much more then a stand alone product.

  • http://businessmindhacks.com AlexSchleber

    You forgot about YouTube. That will be a huge source of mainstream-y users for G+.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      I didn’t… Reread:

      A proper merging of YouTube in the offering might give it some extra power by leveraging their strong presence in the video space to offer something that doesn’t yet seem to exist on Facebook.

  • http://businessmindhacks.com AlexSchleber

    Dude. If we post a comment without a link, we don’t want to be put in moderation. Period. You’re killing the social in social media with stunts like these.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      Well, sorry but it is my site. You are free to do what you want on yours but I do get a lot of spammers posting comments without a link, with the exception of the link on their username.

  • winedude

    What what about the more than doubling of that number required to get to parity with Google? Um, this is google we’re talking about, right?  Have you done any QA?

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      It is Google indeed but they don’t have 700 million registered users. That’s the part that’s is going to be hard for them.

  • Jiboy

    I accept points from Tristan here. Google+ need some integration of all their other applications to get into mainstream social stuff. For now i have seen failures on youtube links and access to photos on Picasa which only works with google account. also needs a iOS app to get to the major smartphone users.
    But they will win over the Privacy policies compared to Facebook or Twitter. Found that if u try to register as someone with less than 18 yrs age, Google+ will right away block you making it difficult to access the account without proper authentication again. Thats kind of being true to the fact ‘Do No Evil’.
    Good move to protect the under aged. But since most users of social networking are teens or underaged users, google should make a provision where they can use the service with an elders supervision. That will be an awesome development on controlled social media where everyone can be safe and sensible.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      I thought the limits were for kids under 13, which is a regulatory requirement. Are you sure it’s blocking under 18?

      • Jiboy

        I tght its 18. but me n my frnd just tried with his kids name and got the id blocked. Then have to give the credit card verification details to get it unblocked. So I guess some kind of authentication is needed even if its below 13. But anyway, hope all can expect a little less misuse.

      • Jiboy

        I tght its 18. but me n my frnd just tried with his kids name and got the id blocked. Then have to give the credit card verification details to get it unblocked. So I guess some kind of authentication is needed even if its below 13. But anyway, hope all can expect a little less misuse.

  • Igor Versteeg

    I’m going to +1 this article even though it doesn’t have a button for it :)

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      Getting the +1 button on tnl.net is on my to-do list, like a few other things ;) stay tuned

  • Anonymous

    Google’s fundamental problem is the same thing that bit Microsoft and other giants nearly a decade ago. It’s about the platform. As computers get smaller and smaller and handheld devices dominate, software has to adapt. That is why Google is worried about Twitter. I do think Google has the smarts to survive this transition, however, and come out a better company than before.

  • Levine The Machine

    Question about this segment:

    “With a rumored 4–5 million new users in the past couple of weeks, Google is off to a good start with Google+ but still only reaching one percent of the Facebook world. Building on the back of Gmail may be a solid strategic move at this time, as Gmail can get Google to roughly 200 million users. What what about the more than doubling of that number required to get to parity with Google? For that, Google is going to have to do a lot of hard work and it’s unclear how they will go about acquiring more accounts going forward.”Aside from the double “What” (I totally agree with the other posters that question your proofreading ability-why not run this copy past an editor, or be your own editor?) Don’t you mean “…to get parity with Facebook?”  Why would Google want to “get parity” with themselves?

    In the end, my suggestion to you, sir:

    You can do it fast, or you can do it correctly, but you can’t do it fast and correcty.  Slow down-your quality will improve-and it is about quality. Isn’t it?

    P.S. Google will beat the competition by making a better mousetrap.  They are off to a good start.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      Good point on them edit and agreed I should have done a better job proofreading this time around. I corrected it’s on tnl.net

      To your PS: maybe (and I don’t care about who wins as long as them net remains relatively open) but it’s still unclear as to how quickly they may get there, if at all.

  • http://twitter.com/greenmoon Green Moon

    “What it does support today, however, is a better version of Twitter, complete with specific status updates.”  – But what about hashtags? What about publishing outside of your circle? I don’t agree that it is a better version of Twitter. And don’t forget the million 3rd party Twitter apps. When Google opens its API, sure apps will be built. But it will take a while to catch up.

  • http://twitter.com/greenmoon Green Moon

    “What it does support today, however, is a better version of Twitter, complete with specific status updates.”  – But what about hashtags? What about publishing outside of your circle? I don’t agree that it is a better version of Twitter. And don’t forget the million 3rd party Twitter apps. When Google opens its API, sure apps will be built. But it will take a while to catch up.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      Well, one can argue that hashtags are supported (you can create your own, albeit not search on them yet). Publishing outside of your circle: you mean public publishing? Done.

      As far as the apps, well, maybe you have a point there.

    • http://www.tnl.net Tristan Louis

      Well, one can argue that hashtags are supported (you can create your own, albeit not search on them yet). Publishing outside of your circle: you mean public publishing? Done.

      As far as the apps, well, maybe you have a point there.